Catching Up

It’s been a whole month since I last updated you with what’s what, so here’s where we are up to on the Mushy Cloud.

As you might know, I have just finished a four-week placement at another church prior to my BAP (Bishop’s Advisory Panel – selection panel to be a candidate for ordination training) and I am back at my own church this week. The placement itself was a fantastic experience and I met lots of lovely people, as well as learning more about my vocation and what God is calling me to do. I also had a very different experience of how to “do” church and that’s something that I will be reflecting on between now and my BAP.

I was straight back into my own parish ministry on Monday morning at our annual Teddy Bear’s Picnic with the little ones at Stay and Play. We said goodbye to 8 children as they move on up to “big school” in September and we are looking forward to seeing some new families in September when we get back.

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Last Thursday (a slight overlap with my placement and today’s ministry) I met a lovely family who were preparing for the funeral of their beloved Gran and Mum, Jean. We talked a lot about what family meant to her and I was moved to hear their stories of her life and how she treated people with love. It was Jean’s funeral today and I contributed the prayers during the service, as well as accompanying the vicar at the graveside. I had one of those lovely moments where my online life met my “real” life, and I met one of my blog friends at the funeral. He introduced himself at the end of the service, and it was absolutely fantastic to meet him in person – hello Andy!!

We are heading off in the wobbly box next week for a few days away in the Lake District. It has been a long twelve months since we were last on holiday and we can’t quite manage the full two weeks this year, but the few days we are going to be away are going to be a very welcome tonic after the hectic (and sometimes frantic) things we have been working through as a family recently. No doubt there will be photographs and updates while we are there, including – I hope – a series of sunset and sunrise shots from the top of Hardknott Pass. Please pray for good weather for that overnight expedition for us. I’m not bothered about having good weather for the rest of it – tea tastes as good under canvas as it does in the open air when it is drunk out of a tin mug – but for the night we decide to do the photography on top of the world it would be nice to have some clear skies so we can see the sun come up properly.

A couple of weeks ago I received a delightful postcard from my blog friend Mary in the USA. It showed a photograph of Niagara Falls and it reminded me of the trip I went on with North Music Centre in September 1987 to the same place. We played an afternoon concert on a bandstand in the park at the top of the falls and I remember the spray from the water managed to wet our music even from that distance away. We also had a trip on the Maid of the Mist boat to the foot of the Horseshoe Falls, which is also depicted on Mary’s postcard. Thank you for the card Mary and thank you for the fabulous reminder of what a wonderful, natural world we live in.

In other news, I am trying to write a computer program that will help with crochet design so am on a crash course of learning coding (my head hurts) and how to apply maths and logarithms to what is essentially a textile art form. Not easy and anyone with any experience who can do this thing for me I will gladly talk to and get help from. I have also been trying to hone my writing discipline because since my degree I have gotten out of the habit of writing every day. I have started to keep “morning pages” and even in the short while I have been doing it I have seen an improvement in my word-craft.

That’s about it for now as I can hear my crochet hook calling me. Here is a picture of a bee I have designed. He doesn’t have a face yet as I’m not sure I like him to have a black or a yellow face. What do you think? The wings are still in the prototype stages too and so haven’t been attached yet. Sigh. A work in progress indeed.

My faceless bees – which is better? The one with the black end or the yellow end? The wings are still a bit dodgy too…

That’s all for now. Until next time, cheerio.



Daybook Entry – 23rd August

8598a-simple-woman-daybook-largeFOR TODAY 23rd August 2015

Outside my window… I am looking at the most clear-cut half moon I have ever seen. It is so crystal clear against a cloudless black sky it looks like someone has painted it on my window.

I am thinking… there is so much on my mind tonight I don’t know where to begin. It has been a long time since I last wrote a blog post and a lot has happened in the meantime. We have had a family holiday (which was fantastic), I have decided on a new health and fitness regime to try and get myself in some sort of shape (and not simply “round”), I have delivered a sermon today in both parish churches, I am looking forward to taking up my studies again in a couple of weeks and I’m getting excited about some of the writing ideas I have been working on. We had a barbecue at church last night which was brilliant fun. Touching too, especially when some older couples were dancing to “Every Time We Say Goodbye”. One of the couples in particular brought a tear to my eye because he is almost crippled with arthritis in his hips and back and she is a resident in a nursing home because she has dementia. To see them sharing such a loving moment dancing to that song together, and to see her singing the words was such a powerfully emotional moment it was almost heart-breaking. Yes, there is a lot on my mind.

I am thankful… for many, many things. Not least the gift of my faith.

In the kitchen… we had leftover chilli for tea tonight and we have a big cook-out planned to fill up the freezer with soups, sauces, curries and stews for the autumn and winter ahead.

I am wearing… grey t-shirt and blue shorts. My favourite colours and my favourite comfy gear when it’s hot and clammy as it is tonight.

I am creating… space. Much needed space in our house. We have inherited a lot of “stuff” from my parents in law’s house and we have amassed so much clutter over the years that our house is in desperate need of a clear out. I began with the bedroom last week, and this weekend we both tackled the boxroom so I can make more use of the space to study and contemplate as I need to.

I am going… to be accompanying my Dad to the hospital tomorrow for a routine procedure. Not particularly pleasant for him and I’m glad to be able to give him some moral support while he’s there.

I am praying… for my father in law Arthur, my friend Gwen, my friend Eddie. They are all going through a lot of upheaval and uncertainty in one way or another. My prayers are also for a friend who is going through some serious mental health issues that have a wider impact on other people.

I am wondering… how much longer Manchester City can keep up their winning streak. Three wins out of three so far in the Premiership gives us maximum possible points and some seriously good bragging rights.

I am reading… “Grave Secrets” by Kathy Reichs for a bit of lighter reading, but I am also trying to get through my reading list for one of my courses in October. I am trying to get through Little Women (yawn) and have got Treasure Island (yawn 2) and Mortal Engines (steampunk theme for young adults so not sure what to expect yet) and The Other Side of Truth to read next.

From the boardroom… A bit of anti-writing matter haha


I am hoping… that it isn’t too muggy overnight tonight. I could do with a decent sleep please.

I am looking forward to… getting back to routine when Ethan goes back to school…eek, I mean COLLEGE…and when my Open University materials arrive and I can get cracking on finishing my degree.

I am learning… how to do Celtic drawings and transfer them onto projects for wood burning. Here are a couple of things I made when I was on holiday last week.




Around the house… DON’T ASK!!!!! It’s just a stuffed up mess at the minute and doesn’t feel much like a home to be honest. Going to get to grips with that soon.

I am pondering… where to ride to tomorrow. I have been cycling a bit recently and have been gradually building up my mileage, so I’m looking at where to go and how far to go tomorrow to keep up my routine.

A favourite quote for today… “Prayer is when you talk to God; Meditation is when you listen to him”

One of my favourite things… is watching Manchester City win.

A few plans for the rest of the week: at the hospital with my Dad tomorrow morning, baptism preparation at church on Wednesday, leading study group on Thursday evening and band on Friday night. I will be cycling a couple of times and reading a LOT this week too! I also have a phone call to make to make a “date” for coffee with someone I am excited to meet again after a number of years without contact.

A peek into my absence…

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Our Week In Northumberland

We have been on holiday this week and have spent a wonderful time together in Northumberland. We are camping (again) and have returned to the same site we stayed at last year near Seahouses.

We have not travelled far this time and have explored places within a half hour’s drive away. We have visited Anwick Castle where some of the outdoor scenes from Harry Potter were filmed and have been on a narrow gauge railway to visit Etal, a lovely little village that was a respite place for the English army at the Battle of Flodden.

Anyone fancy a Quidditch lesson?!
Me and my boys on a train (husband, dad and son)
Emma (and Timmy) on a train

We have had evenings on several beaches and sea fronts locally, and have had our obligatory evening of madness in the awning playing cards and dominoes with much laughter and teasing to accompany us.

Evening at Beadnell
Evening at Seahouses

Today we visited a restored corn mill which was very very interesting, and we visited some ancient standing stones which was very moving. The standing stones were a half hour hike through ripening crops from the lane where we parked our cars, and, to use an oft-overused phrase,  it was AWESOME.

Stone Age standing stones at Duddo
Fields of ripening crops

We move off this site tomorrow to head south to Scarborough where my brother and his family will be joining us for a few days. I’m looking forward to seeing him and looking forward to having some daft times on the beach with him too.


A Day of Two Halves

It’s been a day of two halves today, literally poles apart. The day began beautifully with bright sunshine and some big fluffy clouds in the sky which was a godsend to us as we packed up to move on to the next stage in our holiday. As anyone who has ever been camping knows, it’s rotten to set up or strike camp in the wind and the rain as canvas tends to act as sails making folding tents a nightmare. We were fortunate this morning that the weather was in our favour.

But then we set off and things quickly changed. My dad developed an electrical problem on his car, which meant that he didn’t have a connection to his nearside indicator on his caravan. We usually lead and dad usually follows us, but because of this problem we went behind today because at least we knew where he was heading and the chances of annoying other motorists were reduced if it was us behind him.

If we hadn’t done that then what happened next might not have been quite so catastrophic…

We crossed the border into Scotland, and we met Weather with a capital “W”.

And unbeknown to us at this point we were developing our own mechanical fault of our own. We stopped for lunch at a service station and it was pouring down with rain so didn’t stop long, but when we set off again it was like armageddon out there.

We had a slight argument with the satnav as we wanted to follow the road signs to the Forth Bridge but Tom wanted to take us through Edinburgh City. Erm, no Tom, not a great idea when towing a couple of caravans in convoy, one of which can’t indicate left.
So we found ourselves on the M9 (which I thought was the M90) going round a huge left hand bend coming onto the main carriageway when we heard a big bang, and then a grinding noise from behind us. The car felt like we were dragging a dead weight behind us and so we pulled over onto the hard shoulder. We were just about at the end of the bit where we could have pulled over because there was another slip road coming in to our left. Not the best or the safest place to have an emergency stop!!

Still pouring down with torrential rain, the three of us got out to check what had happened and oh boy…

The nearside wheel had come OFF the van, breaking the wheel arch in the process and leaving the hub dragging into the tarmac. All four wheel bolts had come off (how, HOW?!?!) and the tyre had shredded inside the archway, giving off plumes of burnt rubber smoke inside and outside the van.

We rang for the RAC, but as the problem was the caravan and not the car, they told us they might not be able to help but would get someone to us within an hour. They told us to wait by the side of the carriageway away from the car. The weather was appalling and we got very wet very quickly, but we were “rescued” by two men in a BEAR Scotland truck after about 20 minutes.

They weren’t supposed to help us, but they were fantastic and got the caravan jacked up for us so we could get the weight off the hub. While they were doing that we saw that the bolt holes in the wheel had all become enlarged, possibly as the bolts had worked themselves loose, rendering the wheel useless.

Kevin had an amazing light bulb moment when he realised that as the car had 4 safety bolts on the wheels, we were carrying the extra “spare” ones, which we could use to attach the spare wheel. Hurrah!!  Problem solved!!

Looking forward to getting warm and dry and on the move again, once the spare wheel was attached with the spare wheel bolts, we got on with the job of rehitching the van,  lowering the legs, upping the jockey wheel and restarting the engine.

Only to find that the battery was dead because we’d followed the RAC ‘s instructions to leave the hazard warning lights on and the side lights on. Very embarrassing to have to ask the BEAR men to give us a jump start as well. Oops!

Those men were fantastic and really
helped us out, and although their advice to “get on a plane somewhere hot next time” might not be taken up, they were brilliant with us throughout it all.

Finally back on the road and we eventually found the campsite, getting the whole party back together again. Obviously, being stranded on a motorway, dad couldn’t stop to help us and had to carry on without us.

So here we are at the end of a difficult and very different day. What started out as beautiful weather, gorgeous driving conditions and a calm and peaceful camping party has turned out to be very very wet, dangerous, difficult and stressful journey and tetchy (!) campers at the end.

It is still torrential rain out there and we have not got a dry coat between us after the debacle on the road and setting up in the torrent, but we have had a great time in our awning this evening playing cards, telling daft jokes and having a sing song.

It’s great this camping lark isn’t it??!


Holiday in Northumberland – Part 1

We travelled to Northumberland on Monday and have spent the past few days relaxing and unwinding. We have been a couple of times before and this area is one of my favourite places to be. It’s full of big skies and open fields and the sea is literally a stone’s throw away from where we’re camping.

We’re on a site that is part of a working farm in the village of Elford. I say “village” but really it is a crossroads with a farm, a manor house and a small row of cottages tucked in behind one of the farm’s barns. We’re about a mile and half from Seahouses, and about 4 miles from Bamburgh, and we visited both of those places yesterday while out on an 8 mile bike ride from the site.

This is a view of Bamburgh Castle that we stumbled upon from one of the country lanes:

View from the road over the fields towards Bamburgh Castle
View from the road over the fields towards Bamburgh Castle

You can see the wheat fields in the foreground and the sea beyond the castle. Just to the right of this are the Farne Islands, which look like a good Spring tide would flood them out of existence but are actually home to thousands of seabirds, seals and puffins and also house 3 separate lighthouses. I think a boat trip over there might be in order later in the week.

Apart from the bike ride yesterday morning, we had a lovely relaxing lazy day yesterday. We were blessed with sunshine all day long and it was lovely to sit outside the caravans to just chat, crochet, do puzzles and drink tea together yesterday afternoon. Today has been a slightly different story, beginning with thunderous and torrential rain pretty much all night long. It has been raining most of the day today and even though there are some blue patches in the sky, the angry grey clouds are chasing them away almost as soon as the torrents slow to a drip, as they are doing now and again.

We had a little drive out to Coldstream today on account of the weather as it is the home of the Coldstream Guards and promised a museum to go and visit. It’s about 20 miles or so away from here and the journey was a lovely toddle through the most beautiful countryside we can boast in England. I got a small shock when we crossed over the River Tweed, and passed over the border to Scotland (I didn’t realise Coldstream wasn’t in England – oops!), but the countryside on the Scottish side of the border was just a beautiful as it was on the English side.

The Coldstream museum is a very small affair, but it fairly comprehensively gave the history of the Guards and explained how they came into existence and the role they have played in British military history. There was also a room of exhibits that gave a bit of the social history of Coldstream too, which was interesting to read about. A highlight for me was when a couple of currently-serving guardsmen came in to have a look around. Obviously on “downtime” they were having a bit of a laugh and larking about, which was nice to see. They were just young lads really and it was a strange feeling to realise that they were probably older than some of the soldiers that were killed in the First World War, which we have been commemorating recently. One of the lads tried on one of the display tunics which was an example of a uniform from about 100 years ago. He was amazed that it was basically the same as the one they wear on duty nowadays, except this one was missing its buttons. “Quick, to the stores before we get put on a charge for that!” he said to his mates. We had a little chat with them and they were very friendly and informative about their uniforms and their guard duties down at Windsor and Buckingham Palace. An unexpected bonus which brought the past and the present to life for us in the tiny museum.

Outside, the driver showed off his “prowess” at driving the minibus away…only, he forgot he’d put the handbrake on and was very embarrassed in front of us (and no doubt came in for some extreme ribbing from his pals). I don’t doubt he can drive a military truck or a tank, but a minibus was a bit beyond him today.

After the museum we had a little walk through the town, having a spot of lunch at a tea-shop called “Mad Hatter’s Tea Shop”, which was lovely, and into a remembrance garden next to the Tweed.

Remembrance garden in Coldstream
Remembrance garden in Coldstream



Curve in the River Tweed
Curve in the River Tweed

This is a curve in the Tweed, which looks superb for fly fishing, if you’re into that sort of thing. Looking at the peace and tranquillity of it I wouldn’t mind giving it a go myself!

On the way back to site we stopped off at the Flodden Battlefield. I don’t fully understand how the two armies came to be fighting on that day, but basically the English took on the Scots and even though the two sides were hugely mismatched in terms of weaponry, artillery and manpower the Scots suffered a huge defeat and the English “won”. I say it in quote marks like that because in just a couple of hours in the afternoon of 9th September 1513, nearly 50,000 men were slaughtered on the battlefield. Many more would have died from wounds later on, and several lords and noblemen subsequently lost their heads as a result of their poor decision making or outright cowardice during the battle. Good old Henry VIII. Not even there yet still demanded the execution of those that “failed” in the battle that day.

Flodden Battlefield looking at Branxton Hill
Flodden Battlefield looking at Branxton Hill

Here is a view of Branxton Hill on which the battle took place. I was standing where the middle of the English front line was judged to have stood. The Scots army would have been in that field directly opposite and as they were on the higher ground they should have been victorious that day, but they weren’t because of the boggy ground in the middle (where the small humpy ridge is before the hedge line halfway up the picture).

I find it amazing that so much bloodshed could have happened in such a short space of time and in such a small area as this. Flodden is thought to have been the last major medieval battle and just being on the site today gave me shivers thinking about the lives that were lost.

Back at the campsite now and I’m off to try and find a spot where I can connect to the wi-fi for long enough to post this, then it’s back to the van for sausage casserole for tea. Might have a bit of a leg-stretcher on the bikes later, or we might have a drive up the coast to find the tide times for the crossing to Lindisfarne tomorrow or Friday. Bliss.





Holiday Part 3


Photo of the day. Me and Kevin enjoying the sunshine outside the tent. It’s been a lovely relaxing day today, beautiful sunshine and good company, plenty of food and some card games to finish with this evening.

We’re moving on tomorrow to a campsite in Monmouth, which is in South Wales. It will be about 130 mile drive tomorrow so it’s an early bed tonight to be up and ready to pack up in the morning.

Looking forward to some fresh Welsh air for the next few days. No doubt there will be lots of photos to show you too.

Night all!!


High Days and Holidays Part Two (and a bit of One)

I suppose you’re all wondering how the journey debacle turned out aren’t you??

I’m sorry that my last post cut off halfway through a sentence. That was partly due to fatigue on my part and dodgy wi-fi connection in another part. Hopefully I will remember the age-old advice when using computers of SAVE YOUR WORK every now and again and fingers crossed I won’t repeat that mistake again.

So…where were we? Oh yes, we were having a time crisis because there was a deadline of 8pm to sign in at the site, and according to the SatNav we would land there at 7.54pm if everything went smoothly.

I had been driving for a spell up to this point and Kevin took over again at that rest-stop. It was complete horror on his face that as he entered the slip road to rejoin the motorway he shouted “WHY DIDN’T YOU TELL ME THE PETROL WAS IN THE RED??!!!!!!”.

Oops, my bad.

He did everything he could to conserve petrol – slow acceleration, gentle braking, optimising the speed, turning off the AC etc – but that needle crept further and further towards empty and we were sweating a bit looking for the next service sign. When we did see the sign it was a huge relief, although the following 12 miles were the most nerve wracking ever. Eventually (after a couple of coughs from the engine) we turned off the motorway and were horrified to see that the service station wasn’t just to the side as normal services are, but way down the road after battling with three roundabouts as well. The needle had stuck to the bottom of the guage, the engine was coughing and spluttering and we still had about 100 yards to go when the inevitable happened. We could actually SEE the petrol pumps but the engine just died on us, in the middle of the road. There were HGV’s and wagons and all sorts of vans whizzing past us and we had no choice but to get out and push.

Let me remind you – this was three of us (Kevin, me and my 14 year old son Ethan) pushing a dead car which was towing a fully loaded caravan in the middle of the motorway services for about 60 yards or so. Never before in all my days have I been so mortified/embarrassed/scared witless/energised (delete as appropriate). I felt to blame because I hadn’t noticed that the petrol guage was showing so low when we first stopped, but I felt fully justified in blaming Kevin for not noticing when he took over. So we’re equal in the blame stakes but that didn’t help the fact that we were now over the expected time of arrival at the campsite.

We filled up and were back on the road post-haste and there was some pretty nifty driving to go along with the “please get us there in one piece and please don’t let us get lost as we usually do” type prayers going on as well, and we arrived with a couple of minutes to spare.

It was hairy!!

Since then we’ve been doing a bit of relaxing (Saturday was spent here on site and exploring the local area, including watching the floating gin palaces on the Thames) and visiting family. We took my Gran out to Windsor on Sunday, which was a lovely time together. She is very frail now and can’t walk anywhere more than from her chair to the bathroom etc, so we took her in her wheelchair which she loved. She really appreciated the time out of her house and she said that she enjoyed the journey as much as the walk/ride round Windsor.

We then visited my Uncle David’s wife Alison and their two daughters Laura and Juliette who were busy putting up a tent in the garden when we arrived. We had a lovely natter and Kevin and my Dad helped the girls finish putting the tent up and I think the idea was that they might like to sleep out in it one night. Not sure if that’s happened yet!!

Emma arrived during our trip to Windsor with her boyfriend Sam, and we almost had a repeat of Friday night as we realised the time and had to dash off back to the site to get them booked in before 8pm and to get their tent up. We made it with about 15 minutes to spare this time – luxury!

We have been thinking about going to visit London for quite some time now, and we decided that seeing as though we are so close (well, closer than Manchester anyway) we would make the effort to travel in and “do the sights” as they say. We went both yesterday and today, and the journey was as much a part of the day as the day itself was. We drove from the campsite in Hurley to West Ruislip where we got the tube train. The drive took about half an hour and then the tube was another hour or so to get to the Tower station, which is where we’d planned on visiting yesterday. We got off sooner than that today because we had planned on doing a little foot tour when we arrived, so we got off at Chancery Lane.

We spent most of our time yesterday exploring the Tower of London which was very interesting and well worth a visit. We didn’t get to see the Crown Jewels because the queue was at least an hour long to go in, which none of us fancied in the baking heat, so we gave that a miss. We saw pretty much everything else though including the spot where the scaffold was built to behead those unfortunate enough to come to the wrathful attention of a miffed monarch in the annals of history.

The journey home was an….adventure….gulp. We had totally mistimed our tube journey and tried to get on during the rush hour, and unfortunately for us (and the several million other tube users at that time) there had been a cloud burst and everyone was soaked wet through which caused a human miasma of sweaty steam to mill its way through all the tunnels and on the trains. We were squashed in like sardines in a tin and I found it hilarious to see that everything I’d heard about people taking daft risks to get on the train was actually true. There was one chap who took a run up and a flying leap to get onto our carriage where there was really no room to do so and if it wasn’t for the fact that he was carrying a large (and very solid) briefcase that he used as a weapon to carve himself a hole, then he wouldn’t have been able to get on and instead would have been splattered against the side of the train.

Today we spent a fair bit of time walking about and isn’t it amazing what you can find when you’re on foot? We were looking at the inns of court from the road and realised there was a small doorway open which was too tantalising to ignore, so we went through it. There was a sign up saying that the public were permitted to enter at the discretion of Lord Something or Other of Somewhere and that we had to abide by the rules etc, which, being the law abiding citizens that we are we thought was reasonable.

I’m so glad we sneaked in through that side gate though – boy oh boy it was like another world in there! If you’ve ever been to Oxford or Cambridge and have seen the way the colleges are set up you’ll be familiar with the layout here. There are several (numerous) buildings arranged round the grounds, which are all contained within a walled enclosure. There is usually a porters lodge (we were round the back so didn’t see the porter till we went out the other side) and there are usually chapels or small churches too. As we made our way along we could hear organ music so we went to investigate and found ourselves in the Lincoln’s Inn Chapel listening to the most stunning playing I have ever heard in real life. The chapel itself was breathtaking, but the music was sublime. We later realised that the organist was having a lesson from a music tutor and what we heard wasn’t the finished product. Wow. I certainly would like to hear that played for real if that was only a practice.

We walked along Fleet Street and up Ludgate Hill to St Paul’s Cathedral after that, and there we got on the open top bus tour that was to make up most of the rest of our day. We saw pretty much all the major sights from the top of the bus and we hopped off at one point to visit Harrods. I treated myself to some teabags and some chocolate and with a bit of forward purchasing, treated the family to a couple of new decorations to hang on our Christmas tree. It was certainly weird to be hearing Jingle Bells in the middle of summer!

After we’d finished the tour we walked a bit further and then got the tube back home again. We deliberately chose to avoid the rush hour this time as the sardine experience left one or two of our party a little bit nervous about doing it again.

Last night, we had a lovely meal at the local pub, The Rising Sun here in Hurley. The food was beautiful and the landlord certainly knows how to keep a good ale and a good cellar. Tonight we treated ourselves to fish and chips from a chippy on the way home. Both meals were the perfect ends to the most perfect of tourist days in our capital city.

And so to tomorrow. We have got a relaxation day planned tomorrow but I can foresee that we’ll be doing a bit of walking along the Thames with maybe even a swim in there too if the weather is warm enough. I’ll let you know about that if it happens!!

I will post the pictures from the past few days when I get back home because the internet connection isn’t strong enough for long enough to support uploading them so I will wait to get home to do that.

Part three another day!